When I graduated from seminary in April of 2009, I began an intentional process of simplifying my life. Throughout my seminary career I worked full-time while pursuing three advanced degrees. Plus, I served as the children’s pastor of a local church. It was a complex balancing act which took its toll on me. I was ready for a change. This is why I was happy to conclude my formal studies, as much as I had enjoyed them. It is also why I have progressively grown bolder in saying no to various opportunities, even ones which I would very much like to do. Sometimes, firm steps must be taken to simplify, especially when the pattern of my adult life has felt like a comedic juggling act of various pressures. In my efforts to learn, grow, and achieve, I experienced seasons (especially early on) in which I nearly forgot how to live.
Make no mistake, even now my life is complex, although I continue to work on simplifying it. Such is the condition of the human experience. Unexpected twists occur in our daily routines: sickness; death; opportunity; blessings; setbacks; and so on. We all go through them eventually. They add complexity and texture even to the most simplified life routines.
Financial advisors counsel people to store up money for emergency financial reserves. I suggest the same is needed for emotional reserves. By simplifying my life to such an extent that margin is gained to nurture and enjoy my relationships with family, friends, church and work, deposits are then made into my emotional reserves for those times when the pressure will come as a flood through circumstances completely outside my control. The control valve of simplicity will ease the tension of inevitable complexity. Put another way, the love of friends and family, and a rootedness in Christ, will help me to weather the worst storms which life may offer.
Simplicity and complexity in tension. Of course, not all complexity is bad, and not all simplicity is best. Look at the wonderful complexity of the natural world and consider that it was designed by our Creator. Likewise, consider the irresponsibility of shunning difficult tasks or relationships, using simplicity as an excuse.
Simplicity properly deployed will unleash creative complexity which will be a blessing to those whose lives we touch.